A new report has revealed that at least a third of U.S. military personnel are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, causing some commanders concern about the potential for spread within close-quartered ranks.
While some have discussed the potential for making the vaccine a requirement for service, doing so would not actually be legal. Current federal law "prohibits the mandatory application of medicines within the military that are not fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
Currently, all vaccines in circulation have been granted "emergency authorization" by the FDA, but not full approval, which often takes years.
One factor in the military resistance to vaccination could stem from its last experience with such a mandate. Following fears of bioterror like anthrax being utilized against American troops, the U.S. military created a mandatory anthrax vaccination program.
Legal battles skyrocketed after the program was initiated, as large numbers of soldiers reported experiencing "debilitating side effects" from the shot. The result of those legal challenges was a judicial affirmation that only after the FDA had "adequately studied" and granted final approval for such vaccines could they be mandated.
A significant fear among current soldiers is reportedly the belief that the shot was rushed through clinical testing and is therefore not fully understood. At Fort Polk in Louisiana, only 30% of service members are willing to receive the vaccination.